Review: Frequent Hearses (1950) by Edmund Crispin


Esta entrada es bilingüe, para ver la versión en castellano desplazarse hacia abajo

Bloomsbury Reader, 2011. Format: Kindle edition. File size: 579 KB. Print Length: 232 pages. First published in 1950. ASIN: B0062N3524. eISBN: 9781448206889

9781448213474

Professor Fen is heading to a film studio in London with which he is cooperating in a film based on the life of poet Alexander Pope as a literary adviser. In fact the book title is taken from a verse in one of his poems, Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady, and the working title of the film is The Unfortunate Lady. On the way to the studio, Fen meets his friend Inspector Humbleby from Scotland Yard. Humbleby is investigating the identity of a young woman who killed herself jumping from Waterloo Bridge, in the early hours of yesterday. She was not carrying any document that could have been of help to establish her identity. At the moment we only know that she picked up a taxi in Piccadilly and gave the taxi driver an address in Stamford Street, on the other side of the river. Then, when the taxi was in the middle of Waterloo Bridge, she asked the driver to stop. When the driver realised her intentions, it was too late. She was already dead when she was taken out of the river. The address given to the taxi driver, hasn’t been of great help either. She had just moved into this place the previous evening, and nothing has been found to help established her identity. Moreover, something strange has happened. The room has already been searched before the arrival of the police, and anything that would have been of help had already been removed. Whoever did it was very conscientious. Now, it has been found out she was an aspiring actress by the name of Gloria Scott, who had just get her first role in the film The Unfortunate Lady. However, Gloria Scott was only a stage name, that has been impossible to trace beyond last year. What the autopsy has established is that she was three months pregnant, and it has been ascertained she had been attached romantically to Stuart North and Maurice Crane. The first one, an actor, is not likely to be the father given that, between December and January, he had been working on Broadway in the USA. With regard to Maurice Crane we only know that just before being questioned, he falls down dead. He has been poisoned, as determined by the autopsy shortly after. 

Though I had heard much about Edmund Crispin, so far I had not had the pleasure of reading any of his books. But having finished reading Frequent Hearses, my second contribution to Crimes of the Century at Past Offences, I wonder if this was a good decision. From what I know now it’s probably one of the weakest of  his books, and I would only recommend it to those of his fans wishing to complete all his novels and collections of short stories. In any case I have not given up yet, and I’m planning to read other of his books. See below the titles of the books highlighted in bold that I look forward to reading in a near future.

My rating: C (I liked it with a few reservations)

Edmund Crispin (2 October 1921 – 15 September 1978) was the pseudonym of Robert Bruce Montgomery (usually credited as Bruce Montgomery), an English crime writer and composer. Montgomery wrote nine detective novels [The Case of the Gilded Fly,1944 (US Title: Obsequies at Oxford); Holy Disorders, 1945; The Moving Toyshop, 1946; Swan Song, 1947 (US Title: Dead and Dumb); Buried for Pleasure, 1948; Love Lies Bleeding, 1948; Frequent Hearses, 1950 (US Title: Sudden Vengeance); The Long Divorce, 1952 (Also published as: A Noose for Her) and The Glimpses of the Moon, 1977] and two collections of short stories [Beware of the Trains, 1953 (short story collection); Fen Country, 1979 (short story collection, published posthumously)] under the pseudonym Edmund Crispin (taken from a character in Michael Innes’s Hamlet, Revenge!). The stories feature Oxford don Gervase Fen, who is a Professor of English at the university and a fellow of St Christopher’s College, a fictional institution that Crispin locates next to St John’s College. Fen is an eccentric, sometimes absent-minded, character reportedly based on the Oxford professor W. E. Moore. The whodunit novels have complex plots and fantastic, somewhat unbelievable solutions, including examples of the locked room mystery. They are written in a humorous, literary and sometimes farcical style and contain frequent references to English literature, poetry, and music. They are also among the few mystery novels to break the fourth wall occasionally and speak directly to the audience. In addition to his reputation as a leader in the field of mystery genre, he was the regular crime-fiction reviewer for the Sunday Times from 1967 and contributed to many periodicals and newspapers and edited science-fiction anthologies. (Source: Bloomsbury Publishing and Wikipedia). (In bold the book titles I’m interested in reading)

Bloomsbury Publishing, publicity page 

Felony and Mayhem Press, publicity page

Edmund Crispin

A five part essay on Edmund Crispin from The Passing Tramp: one, two, three, four and five.

Audible

Frequent Hearses / Sudden Vengeance, 1950 de Edmund Crispin

El profesor Fen se dirige a un estudio de cine en Londres con el que colabora en una película basada en la vida del poeta Alexander Pope como asesor literario. De hecho, el título del libro está tomado de un verso en uno de sus poemas, Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady, y la película lleva por título The Unfortunate Lady. De camino al estudio, Fen se encuentra con su amigo el inspector Humbleby de Scotland Yard. Humbleby está investigando la identidad de una joven que se suicidó saltando desde el puente de Waterloo, en las primeras horas de ayer. No llevaba ningún documento que podría haber sido de ayuda para establecer su identidad. Por el momento sólo se sabe que ella tomó un taxi en Piccadilly y le dio al taxista una dirección en Stamford Street, en el otro lado del río. Entonces, cuando el taxi se encontraba en medio del puente de Waterloo, le pidió al conductor que parara. Cuando el conductor se dio cuenta de sus intenciónes, ya era demasiado tarde. Ella ya estaba muerta cuando fue sacada del río. La dirección indicada al taxista, no ha sido de gran ayuda tampoco. Acababa de mudarse a esa dirección la noche anterior, y no se ha encontrado nada para ayudar a establecer su identidad. Por otra parte, algo extraño ha sucedido. La habitación ya ha sido registrada antes de la llegada de la policía, y cualquier cosa que hubiera sido de ayuda ya había  sido retirada. El que lo hizo fue muy concienzudo. Ahora, se ha descubierto que ella era una aspirante a actriz que respondía al nombre de Gloria Scott, que acababa de conseguir su primer papel en la película The Unfortunate Lady. Sin embargo, Gloria Scott era solamente un nombre artístico, que ha sido imposible de rastrear más allá del año pasado. Lo que la autopsia ha establecido es que ella estaba embarazada de tres meses y se ha comprobado que había estado unida sentimentalmente a Stuart North y Maurice Crane. El primero de ellos, un actor, no es probable que sea el padre dado que, entre diciembre y enero, habia estado trabajando en Broadway en los Estados Unidos. Con respecto a Maurice Crane sólo sabemos que justo antes de ser interrogado, cae muerto. Ha sido envenenado, según lo determinado por la autopsia poco después.

Aunque había oído hablar mucho de Edmund Crispin, hasta ahora no había tenido el placer de leer ninguno de sus libros. Pero después de haber terminado la lectura de Frequent Hearses, mi segunda contribución a Crimes of the Century en Past Offences, me pregunto si esto fue una buena decisión. Por lo que sé ahora es probablemente uno de los más flojos de sus libros, y yo sólo se lo recomendaría a aquellos de sus fans que deseen completar todas sus novelas y colecciones de cuentos. En cualquier caso, yo no he renunciado todavía, y tengo la intención de leer otros de sus libros. Vea más arriba los títulos de los libros destacados en negrita que tengo ganas de leer en un futuro próximo.

Mi valoración: C (Me ha gustado mucho con algunas reservas)

Edmund Crispin, cuyo verdadero nombre era Bruce Montgomery (1921-1978), fue un escritor británico de novelas de misterio, compositor y guionista de comedias para el cine. Se graduó en lenguas modernas en el St John’s College de Oxford en 1943. Tras un breve periodo trabajando como profesor se dedicó por completo a la escritura y la composición musical. En 1942 leyó la novela de John Dickson Carr Noche de brujas, según algunos la mejor novela de cuarto cerrado, y se inspiró para crear su propio detective. En 1944 publicó su primera novela El caso de la mosca dorada. Cuando se le preguntaba por sus aficiones, solía decir que lo que más le gustaba en el mundo era nadar, fumar, leer a Shakespeare, escuchar óperas de Wagner y Strauss, vaguear y mirar a los gatos. Por el contrario, sentía gran antipatía por los perros, las películas francesas, las películas inglesas modernas, el psicoanálisis, las novelas policíacas psicológicas y realistas, y el teatro contemporáneo. Entre 1944 y 1951 publicó nueve novelas así como dos colecciones de cuentos, todas protagonizadas por el profesor de Oxford y detective aficionado, Gervase Fen, excéntrico docente afincado en el ficticio St. Christopher’s College, y que le hicieron ganarse un lugar de honor entre los más importantes autores ingleses de novela clásica de detectives. Entre sus novelas destacan además de la mencionada The Case of the Gilded Fly (1944), The Moving Toyshop (1946), Swan Song (1947), Love Lies Bleeding (1948), Buried for Pleasure (1948) y The Long Divorce (1952). Crispin dejó de escribir novelas en la década de los cincuenta, pero continuó redactando reseñas de novelas de detectives y de ciencia ficción para el Sunday Times. Murió de un ataque al corazón en 1978.

Gervase Fen – Edmund Crispin (Mis detectives favorit@s)

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7 thoughts on “Review: Frequent Hearses (1950) by Edmund Crispin

  1. Crispin is a difficult one, because the various elements – the intricate problems, the plotting, the humour, the characters – rarely come together fully (and I say that as a huge fan of his work!). People will tell you The Moving Toyshop is his best work, but I think for most people Swan Song is a better bet as it’s a more classical detective story.

    But there’s so much good work elsewhere – I maintain Fen is his most fuly-realised in the first book, The Case of the Gilded Fly, but then Holy Disorders has a gut-wrenching conclusion (and an inferior plot…gah!); the first half of Love Lies Bleeding is largely pointless but the problem is excellent. It’s frustrating that he couldn’t always draw the disparate elements into a conclusive whole. The short stories have a similar problem – Fen Country has brilliant ideas but no atmosphere, whereas the writing in Beware the Trains is far superior but the problems rather dull…take your pick of what you’d rather, or read them all and get the full package!

    I do love his zaniness, however. A cat that sees aliens takes some topping as a conceit in a detective novel, you’ve got to admit…

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